In Paris, mainline rail automation leads the way to better customer service

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Key to a large effort to modernise the Parisian commuter railway network, the RER line A introduces automatic train operation (ATO). It is the first time ATO is being used in a mainline rail service carrying over 1 million passengers per day.

Having entered commercial service on 27 April on a central section of the line, the ATO service is intended to help tackle a decade of growing capacity and reliability issues spanning from increased passenger demand. 

Operator RATP and the local organising authority, STIF, are also employing additional measures to address these issues, such as the procurement of new double decker trains for the RER line.

ATO offers many benefits such as improved service regularity and shorter headways – especially during peak service times. RATP and STIF intend to continue rolling out ATO service, on all RER line A rolling stock, with the goal of completing this by the second half of 2018 without any interruptions to service.

Besides ATO and fleet renewal, other improvement measures ongoing on line A include track and ballast renewal. A total of 24 km will be replaced by 2021 to increase infrastructure performance. According to RATP, there will also be a stronger focus on improving passenger information with the implementation of new screens that display overall RATP traffic conditions.

The complete roll-out on the central section of this remarkable innovation by RATP will allow us to have faster, more regular trains that will arrive on time, as well as more reliable traveller information”, said Valérie Pécresse, President of STIF and President of the greater Parisian administrative region, Ile-de-France.

In general, once ATO rail service is fully implemented, train drivers would only have to supervise the train motion and safely close carriage doors. The overall benefit of this for public transport would be to allow on-board personnel to focus more on providing information to passengers and other customer-service oriented tasks.

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